2023 was a big year for Doctor Who on two fronts. First, David Tennant briefly returned to the spotlight to star as the Fourteenth Doctor in the show’s 60th anniversary specials. Then in the final special, “The Giggle,” 14 bi-generated into Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor, who went on to lead the Christmas special “The Church on Ruby Road” a few weeks later. We’re still a few months off from Gatwa’s return for Doctor Who Season 14, a.k.a. the first season to release exclusively to Disney+ subscribers outside of the United Kingdom, but former showrunner Steven Moffat has explained why he’s already impressed by what he’s seen from the new Doctor.
After being a writer during Russell T. Davies’ first tenure as showrunner, Moffat took over those duties during the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi eras, which collectively lasted from 2010-2017. Fast-forward more than half a decade, the man who’s also well known for creating shows like Sherlock, Dracula and The Time Traveler’s Wife started off by sharing why he thinks there are great things ahead for Gatwa on Doctor Who with these words to Radio Times:
Well, I think Ncuti is going to be [an] amazing Doctor, he's going to be different. But I've already seen this, I think we all have in The Giggle, that he's got all the command and all the presence of a classic Doctor, plus a whole funky new thing that's going on. And that's what we need.
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Until “The Giggle,” one Doctor’s regeneration into the next Doctor meant their respective actors never shared screen time with each other in the same episode, but bi-generation changed the game. The Fifteenth Doctor split off from the Fourteenth Doctor after the latter was shot by The Toymaker with a galvanic laser ray, and the two teamed up to banish Neil Patrick Harris’ character. Because they’re two separate entities, 14 decided to settle down with Donna Noble’s family and heal from multiple lifetimes worth of trauma, and 15, the end result of that recovery, is off adventuring with his own separate TARDIS.
Steven Moffat was particularly impressed by how Ncuti Gatwa took on such a commanding presence in front of David Tennant, who previously played the Tenth Doctor from 2005-2010, then returned for the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of The Doctor.” Despite only just hitting the scene, Gateway had no trouble stealing the show, with Moffat saying:
Because, you know, the funky new thing's great, but what you've really got to have is, 'I'm the guy who gives the orders.' "And the thing I particularly like from The Giggle is when he orders David Tennant out of the TARDIS. He says, 'Beat it, kid,' and that's great. He's going to be a magnificent Doctor. And 20 years from now, people will be complaining that he's not still in the show.
Following his team-up with the Fourteenth Doctor, the Fifteenth Doctor met Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday, who will be his companion during Season 14. However, it’s already looking like Gibson won’t be sticking around after Gatwa’s first season, possibly because she’s returning to the soap opera Coronation Street. Instead, Andor’s Varada Sethu will take over as 15’s new companion. So Gateway is guaranteed at least two Doctor Who seasons, and while it remains to be seen if he’ll stick around longer than that, Moffat is already confident that in a few decades, the actor will be considered one of the old favorites.
We’ll see how Ncuti Gatwa’s first season of timey-wimey shenanigans unfolds when Doctor Who returns sometime this May. In the meantime, use our 2024 TV schedule to keep track of programming coming sooner, and remember that the first 13 seasons of modern Doctor Who can still be accessed with a Max subscription.